STEELWORK CONTRACTOR Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge is to axe up to 100 staff, including engineers, following a severe downturn in orders, it was revealed this week.
Letters were sent on Monday to the company's entire 680 worldwide workforce asking for voluntary redundancies.
Most jobs are expected to go from the Darlington yard. This is already on short time working finishing deck assembly work for its largest current contract, China's £100M Jiangyin suspension bridge near Shanghai.
'We will have no more major work coming through the yard this year, so are seeking cuts both in Darlington and on our sites worldwide,' said a company spokeswoman. 'We will have to consider compulsory redundancies if there are insufficient volunteers.'
The erratic nature of steel fabrication work, especially for bridges, has led to repeated temporary cutbacks at Cleveland Bridge throughout the 1990s. But last September the company sacked 80 operatives and staff in similar across the board cuts.
Fabrication and erection of Hong Kong's Ching Ma bridge, and now China's Jiangyin, have not been joined by enough smaller contracts and the company is believed to be running at a loss.
Current job losses are expected to be confined to Cleveland Bridge, one of the group's nine specialist contractors.
'Kvaerner Construction remains profitable and healthy,' said the spokeswoman.
The cutback could also be shortlived as Cleveland Bridge is expected to win substantial fabrication work for Turkey's Izmit Bay crossing, which includes the world's second longest suspension bridge. Kvaerner, in consortium with Japanese and Turkish contractors, has already been named preferred bidder for the £1bn design, build, finance and operate project.